Experience The Outdoors Day gives adults with disabilities a chance to enjoy nature

For centuries, ancient philosophers and historical figures alike have praised the importance of immersing ourselves in nature, and losing ourselves in our natural wonders.

For those with disabilities who live within mere miles of these areas, visiting these places can be too much of a challenge, and so they’re left watching nature from a distance.

Wednesday, however, was a special day.

The 15th annual Experience The Outdoors day for adults with disabilities took place at Horse Thief Lake, where members of the Black Hills National Forest, Forest Recreation Management and other partners came together to bring these individuals into the heart of the hills.

“Each year, this event provides an opportunity folks that may not have the ability or the opportunity to do just like you or I,”  said Stephen Keegan, forest landscape architect for Black Hills National Forest, “So this is a great way for them to get out, experience the beautiful outdoors of the Black Hills National Forest and also for us as partners to give back to the community.”

One of important distinctions here is that this was an event for disabled adults as opposed to children. There are some outreach opportunities for kids with disabilities, but far fewer opportunities for adults to be given the chance to let loose a little bit, and not only learn new things but really enjoy themselves.

“I just love the people here and I love how they accept our disabilities and don’t shut us down because we’re different,” said Taylor, one of the participants, “It makes me want to cry happy tears.”

Fishing, horse drawn wagon rides, face painting, gold panning, wildlife displays and of course, what’s an outdoor adventure without s’mores?

“Everybody in the area just jumps in to help us put this together and at the end of the day you go home and you’re exhausted, and you feel great.” said Ty Gerbracht, operations manager for Forest Recreation Management.

Some participants have come back every single year for the last 15 years, marking it on their calendar as soon as they get home, as to not miss next year. Perhaps those old philosophers were on to something regarding our natural connection to the outdoors.

If you or someone you know would like to participate next year or you have questions about transportation or other information, you can call 574-4402.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News